Today, I celebrate a decade of freelancing/self-employment.

Something funny happens when you give notice at a job: people ask you what you’re going to do next. So when I put in my notice at Groupon a decade ago, after burning out twice, I did it because I was on the edge of a third burnout. I had enough saved up at the time and very few expenses so I was able to leave without thinking of what I’d do next. But because people kept asking, I ended up scrambling for an answer and blurted out, “I’m starting a business! I’m going to do coffee crawls!”

Wow, I was so naive. Fast forward through creating and ending that business, part-time jobs, a “full-time” client that paid me as a consultant, and offering and stopping services, here I am.

One decade is a long time. If you’ve been following along in my journey, you’ll know that I like to celebrate the wins, no matter how small. My freelance-versary is a big win: it’s marked in my calendar, I usually do something to celebrate it, and I write one of these posts to mark where I was in the journey. You can read my 9-year post from last year here.

Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned from 10 years of freelancing:

  1. Listen to your intuition. There have been times when I chose to be paid for something because it was consistent work, not because I enjoyed it. I tolerated it. Over time, resentment built and I eventually stopped that project because I finally listened to my intuition. It was the right choice, my brain is much freer.
  2. You don’t need to jump on the bandwagon. There are so many articles and courses out there that promote the latest thing. Or that “this is the only way you should do this thing.” False. If you’re not excited about it in any way, don’t join the crowd (see number one).
  3. It’s ok to pivot. I hate business-speak but here it makes sense. What you started offering or doing 10 years ago may not be a thing you want to do now. This is also a lesson I am currently learning, as I work through how to pivot this newsletter.
  4. Be your authentic self. Talk about your wins, talk about your failures. There’s no need to bare your soul to the world unless that’s something you want to do. If so, then go for it!
  5. Pay attention to what motivates you. It’s what fuels you. I know that one of mine is when someone tells me I can’t do a thing. Wow, do I then really want to do that thing to spite them.
  6. Create your own style. And I mean this in all the ways (these are mine): your clothing, your decor, your writing, and your photography. I wish a teacher had told me that I can write however I want when I’m writing for myself.
  7. The sleep routine matters. Another lesson I’m still learning. The days when I hadn’t done my sleep routine the night before are the days that I get a fuzzy head earlier in the day. For example, these last two days.
  8. Get a dog. Obviously, this one is personal. You can reword this as “find something that gets you out of your house every day.” Pre-Zoey, it was not inconceivable that I hadn’t left the apartment in two days. Now, I’m forced to enjoy fresh air multiple times a day (oh the horror).
  9. Ask for help, ask for support. A long time ago, I learned about ask vs guess culture, and ever since, I’ve attempted to ask more (I am very solidly a Guesser). If you surround yourself with the right people – not the echo chamber kind but the kind who recognizes your potential – you’ll receive the support and honesty that you need.
  10. You have a unique perspective. I once told my now-defunct writing group that I didn’t want to write about a topic because it’s already been written about so many times. And someone responded with, “Yes, but it hasn’t been written about by you” and that struck a chord with me. I ended up writing about it because I felt the need to. It lives in an archive, I didn’t write it with an ultimate goal to share it and that’s okay! Not everything requires a profit.

I haven’t decided how to celebrate a decade. But I do want to thank you for following along and reading what I write.